The Long and Short of Video Length

Video length doesn’t matter… at least, not in the way most people think. There are many theories as to how long a video should be, but the true length should be determined by the story you tell and the audience you’re telling it to.

Best Practices?

When digital marketing exploded and video content was no longer limited to 30-second TV spots, marketers began dragging their stories out to two minutes and beyond. Much of their video content tanked and most blamed video length because it was the only piece that could be measured.

Marketers saw their two-minute videos had a 50 percent completion rate, so they decided 60 seconds was the ideal time for video. Marketers abuse tactics like this all the time, later recognizing their mistakes and then creating best practices to correct what they’ve done.

Adjusting your framework to focus on the audience experience will dramatically change your process and product, as well as improve results.

The Story

Marketers should look at the content and see how long the story is interesting to the viewer. It’s that straightforward. One of the most popular videos of 2013 was the WestJet Christmas video. It was over 5 minutes long, but the story carried, so it worked and had millions of views.

When you lack a compelling story, even a beautiful video will fail. Beginning your process with developing a story is worthwhile, regardless of the size of the project.

Knowing your audience’s interests, needs and motivation is essential. One of our clients, Day Designer, has seen impressive success when using Facebook Live video, and it is a great example of knowing your audience and using video to meet their needs. Their Facebook Live videos usually last at least 30 minutes, but they have demonstrable content, so the video is valuable to the viewers. Their most recent Facebook Live was 36 minutes long and had a consistent retention rate for the first few minutes, and a significant portion of viewers watched the full video.

Their audience engagement is consistently high with video because they have constant, useful content that serves their audience’s needs.

The Hook

Getting someone hooked within the first three seconds, especially on Facebook, is key. Facebook’s algorithm greatly favors video content, and videos auto-play on Facebook and Twitter. The video content is there but people will scroll right past unless you give them a reason to stop. Those three seconds are essential. Grip your viewers and they won’t leave.

Another way to hook your audience is through Facebook video cover photos. Facebook has allowed pinned videos for a while, but now your cover photo can be a video as well. These are great spots to place brand-awareness videos for people who make it to your page. If they’re on your page, they’re interested.

Don’t box yourself in with video length best practices, just tell your story.